In The Flesh – S1 Ep1

If, like myself, you find yourself getting over the heavily saturated zombie horror pop culture and are looking for a new take on it, you may be missing out on something interesting.  Now, if you’re in the thick of the zombie craze I may have something that puts a new spin on your undead mythos. I am talking about the BBC original miniseries In The Flesh.

In The Flesh S1 Ep1 -Zombie

In The Flesh is the brain child of breakout writer Dominic Mitchell, and explores the concept of what if being a zombie was curable, and how would people respond to this. The show follows young Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) on his road of recovery from PDS – that’s Partially Deceased Syndrome – and the confrontation of the circumstances that led to his being a zombie. What makes Kieren’s life a bit more problematic than most PDS sufferers is that his hometown, Roarton, was the first to form a zombie hunting militia, and now that the zombie apocalypse is over it refuses to accept that zombies are people too.

Have I made mention that Kieren’s sister is a vocal member of this militia, the HVF (Human Volunteer Force), or that he has to take daily injections to help regrow his nervous system? There is also a zombie cult of PDS sufferers using verses from the Book of Revelations to further their cause. They supply PDS sufferers with pills to help them revert back to their “rabid” zombie state. So to say that everyone is welcoming back these former “rotters” with arms wide open is a misunderstanding.

I really liked this first episode because of the subverting of the common zombie trope. I also like all the allusions built into the names of characters, i.e., Walker and Dyer, as well as the town of Roarton sounding like “rotten.” There is also some a lot of subtext in the reintroduction of a person with a disease or a psychotic break back into the general populace and the stigma that follows them.

In The Flesh S1 Ep1- JemIf you’re expecting the British equivalent of The Walking Dead I want to stop you right there. This show isn’t about people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse; the z-poc has already hit and waned. This is a post z-poc show about people who were once zombies trying to fit back into a society that was nearly decimated by them. I see it more of a companion piece to The Fades or Shaun of the Dead, just minus the humor on that last one.

While watching the episode I was struck by how much it feels like when we Americans adapt novels for miniseries. It feels like a Stephen King adaptation, where there is so much development and nuance that making it into a feature length movie would rob the story of all the work put into the characters, for te sake of time. It being a miniseries, something typical of British television, also helps it to not overstay its welcome, while telling its story with precision.

The only problems I have thus far is Kieren’s sister Jem (Harriet Cains), though I am willing to give her a second chance as the show develops. I also don’t fully understand why Kieren’s PDS friend takes the “Blue Oblivion” pill and zombies out within the processing facility days before getting released.  Maybe that gets brought back up in the other episodes.

In The FleshS1 Ep1 - Dinner

However, the part that cemented my interest in more episodes was where the HVF finds an elderly PDS sufferer, drags her out into the street, and shoots her in front of the neighborhood. Not that I am for such violence, nor am I for HVF and their agenda, but what it did was help increase my sympathy for the PDS sufferers while illustrating the world they live in. Remember when I talked about the subtext of people being ousted because of a disease or former mental problems?

Originally airing on the BBC in mid-March of this year, its critical success as well as interesting dramatic take on the supernatural horror trope brought it to America. In The Flesh is airing for three straight nights on BBC America, with reruns expected to help fill in late comers. It is also available on Amazon Instant.